Tag: þórdís kolbrún

Minister for Innovation appoints working group about NSA Venture’s future

Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir has appointed a four person working group about NSA Venture’s future. She announced her intention to do so at NSA Venture’s annual meeting this May.

In a press announcement, the ministry discusses the move:

NSA Ventures, which started in 1998, was created because a lack of availability of startup funding which the government needed to address that market failure. The fund has played an important role as an early stage investor, and been a part in bridging the gap between grant-giving governmental funds and later stage investors.

The startup funding environment has changed drastically since the fund’s inception, most notably by the emergence of new investment companies and venture capital funds. The fund has also been in a tight position, partially because the sale of assets has been slow, and fresh investments therefore few and far between.

The future framework and allocation of the fund’s assets have been under review for several years, and the purpose of the working group is to review underlying data and make suggestions.

The working group consists of:

  • Guðrún Gísladóttir, chairman, Director General in the Ministry of Industries and Innovation.
  • Almar Guðmundsson, chairman of the board at NSA Ventures.
  • Guðrún Ögmundsdóttir specialest at the Ministry of Finance
  • Tryggvi Hjaltason, Producer at CCP.

The working group is asked to deliver their suggestions before September 30th of this year.

A mostly straight-forward announcement, and right in line with what the minister discussed at the annual meeting.

The composition of the group is also mostly straight forward. Two representatives of the government and the two ministries that are directly involved with the fund. Almar Guðmundsson most likely sits there as a representative of NSA Ventures, knowing its workings and assets, while not directly employed by the fund. Tryggvi Hjaltason comes in as an independent advisor. Researched the operational environment of tech and startup companies in Iceland in his Master’s thesis.

NSA Ventures will be the topic of the next Memo – you can sign up here.

Þórdís Kolbrún in interview with VB – several thoughts

This post is from the Northstack Memo, our newsletter and commentary on recent happenings in the Icelandic startup ecosystem, written by @kiddiarni.

A couple of weeks ago, Viðskiptablaðið published its annual Entrepreneurs magazine. The paper named Platome startup of the year (í: sproti ársins) and Mint Solutions entrepreneur of the year (í: frumkvöðull ársins). In my opinion, the most interesting part of the magazine was an interview with Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, Iceland’s minister for Industry and Innovation. I’ll highlight several quotes (translated by me).

  • Þórdís: “We’ve done many things regarding [support for the entrepreneurial ecosystem]. The innovation bill last year, the result of work done by the minister of finance and minister of innovation, greatly improved the environment. That doesn’t mean we can just mark it as done. The new law includes things like tax deduction for individuals that invest in startups and increased tax-refund for companies that invest in research and development. In my opinion the maximum refund should be increased even more. These things were a big step, but we always need to try and do even better.”

A couple of comments.

I’ve written about the innovation bill several times, and specifically discussed the tax deduction for investment in startups. There were several big issues with that change. Based on my discussions with active angel investors, a survey of similar initiatives in other countries, and the fact that only three companies have applied for the status for this deduction to be available, suggests that these laws haven’t been the great success they were set out to be. I’ve previoysly written about the bill in general, and the investment tax deduction specifically. If you’re interested in these issues I recommend you take a read.

The other, and more significant, point in this quote is the fact that the minister thinks the maximum refund should be increased more. If she’s able to move on that it’s great news for both tech companies in Iceland, and the ecosystem as a whole.

It’s public knowledge that Icelandic tech staples like CCP and Tempo have discussed that the environment for R&D is better for them in other countries like Canada or the UK. The R&D tax refund is a part of that environment. The committee that discussed the bill specifically decided not to increase the maximum refund because in their view the bill was for smaller companies. Hopefully this emphasis from the current minister will get through.

  • Þórdís: “I wonder whether we should decide what kind of entrepreneurial- and innovation country we want to be. Are we on the journey of doing everything and being good at everything, or do we perhaps need to consider being excellent at something specific? I don’t necessarily mean one specific sector, but rather that it’s not necessarily the right way to try to be best at everthing, that it could be reasonable to have a clear focus and not spread our efforts in too many places.”

A very interesting comment there, signaling that the minister has been (at least) thinking about whether to focus the governmental effort on specific sectors or technologies. Of course, there are pros and cons to decisions like that, and I will be writing more about these in the coming weeks. But if we were to decide that Iceland would focus on a specific sector or technology, it would mean broadly two things. First, Iceland would have a high-level, long-term strategy in building up innovation capacity in a specific sector, that hopefully would attract companies, specialists and investors in the space to Iceland. Second, it would require not only action on behalf of the Ministry of Industry and Innovation, but a much broader effort including education, finance and more.

All in all it’s encouraging to see that our new minister has both a good understanding of what’s happening in the world of tech and entrepreneurship, and ideas on where to go and what to do.

What do you think about here comments? Did you read the interview? Send me a message and let me know or tweet at me (@kiddiarni)

Nortstack – Reporting and analysis of the Icelandic startup scene